Light, Lighter, Lighest - Page 5
When we arrive back at our campsite, it is astronomical twilight and, essentially, dark. Using an ultralight stove, we heat water and rehydrate two backpacking meals, a hot, belly-filling dinner. The chill of fall in the desert settles in, so I peel off my running clothes and shrug into tights, a wool shirt, a down jacket and a windbreaker. After dinner and under a million-trillion stars, I slip into my sleeping bag and fit a buff around my head to keep the heat and today’s good feelings inside.
The Need for Speed
Many fastpackers step up the sport’s difficulty by focusing on speed. When I ask Thatcher why speed is sexy, he explains, “I like challenging myself to do things I’m unsure if I or others can easily do.” In the 80s, Thatcher and Knight challenged themselves by fastpacking the length of the Wind River Range via the Highline and Fremont trails, a distance of just under 100 miles. They finished in 38 hours, a record that still stands.
Perhaps the best example of taking fastpacking to the extreme is the current Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) self-supported speed record. In the summer of 2009, Scott Williamson and Adam Bradley fastpacked the trail’s 2655-mile distance in 65 days 9 hours 58 minutes. For anyone keeping track, that’s over 40 miles of hiking each day. These guys beat ultrarunner David Horton’s 2005 supported speed record on the PCT by about 21 hours, but without the outside assistance and crew that Horton used.
In 2011, Williamson headed back to the PCT, fastpacking his way to another self-supported speed record of 64 days 11 hours 19 minutes. Indeed, the need for speed can run deep in fastpackers.
My eyes snap open to a thousand monster claws scratching black silhouettes into the pre-dawn sky. Consciousness overtakes the creativity of dreams long enough to realize where I am: the heart of Canyonlands National Park’s Needles District. I lapse back to sleep.
Ninety minutes later I awake to the same rocks, but with sunlight sweeping across their tiptops. I love coffee, no matter where on Earth I am, so I sip the French-pressed good stuff while watching the sun brighten the needles.
With tiny fastpacks and little to put in them, we are on the trail in no time. The sky gives no warning of an impending storm, so we set off on a 14-mile loop that includes singletrack and a few miles of 4x4 roads. We’ll return to the same sleeping spot tonight, on the safe side of the giant gully and a short jog from the reliable spring.